Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah of the priests of Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters eight through eleven of this Old Testament prophetic book. As you continue reading the words which are found in the prophetic book of Jeremiah you will find this son of HIlkiah not only indicting the people of God for their idolatry, their immorality, and iniquity, but you will also find him warning of pending judgment that was at the door. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand when reading the prophetic book of Jeremiah and the language that is found and contained within it it’s that essentially Jeremiah was attempting to do two separate things when speaking unto the chosen people—at least in the early days of his ministry. Upon reading the words found in the earlier chapters of the prophetic book of Jeremiah you will find the prophet speaking unto the people of God during the days of Josiah king of Judah and calling them to return and to turn their hearts back unto the LORD. ONCE MORE! ONE MORE TIME! You cannot read the words found in these early chapters of the prophetic book of Jeremiah and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous reality that the prophet was indeed calling the people back to God—to turn their hearts, their souls, and their minds back to the One who had not only brought them up out of the land of Egypt, but also the One who had brought and led them through the vast wilderness filled with all its dangers. It is quite clear and quite obvious when reading these words that the people of Judah and Jerusalem had been on a long and slow decline away from the LORD and from worshipping and serving Him. Moreover, you will find in the second chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah the prophet indicting them for exchanging their Glory for that which was no god at all. The prophet Jeremiah indicted the people of God concerning their idolatry and described how the nations of the earth were more faithful to their false, strange and foreign gods which weren’t gods at all than the people of God were to the true and living God. What a tragic and dangerous indictment this truly is when you take the time to consider it, for through the prophet Jeremiah the LORD emphatically declared unto the people of Jerusalem and Judah that He found greater faithfulness among the nations of the earth round about the inheritance of the people of God than He did among His own people. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the words which are found in the second chapter of this prophetic book beginning to read with and from the first verse:
“Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the LORD. Hear ye the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain? Neither said they, Where is the LORD that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt? And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination. The priests said now, Where is the LORD? And they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit. Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your children’s children will I plead. For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kendra, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing. Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:1-13).
WHAT INIQUITY HAVE YOUR FATHERS FOUND IN ME (THAT THEY ARE GONE FAR FROM ME) (HAVE WALKED AFTER VANITY) (BECOME VAIN). It is absolutely necessary that we take time to consider the words which are being spoken by the LORD in this particular passage of Scripture, for I am absolutely convinced that these words bring us face to face with what is perhaps the very heart and foundation of the people of God changing their glory for that which doth not profit. Essentially that which the living and eternal God is asking the people is what fault or what wrong did they find in Him that they would go far from Him. Please don’t quickly move past this particular reality and the underlying concern that is found therein, for that which the LORD is asking His people is quite honestly at the very forefront and foundation of what is the idolatry and iniquity within our lives. That which the LORD was asking the people of God was a very pointed and powerful question, which was designed to bring them into the place where they examined their own hearts to see and to discern how they had become so offended with God that they would turn their hearts back and away from Him. If there is one thing we must consider and take to heart when reading these words it’s the fact that the LORD was speaking unto the people concerning an offense that had crept into their heart concerning Him—an offense which caused them to come to the place where they no longer found it profitable or necessary to worship and to serve Him. When and as the LORD asked them what iniquity their fathers found in Him that they would go far away from Him and would turn their hearts back from worshipping and serving Him the LORD was calling them to enter into the place where they truly sought to understand what wrong, what fault, what evil, what iniquity they had found in the LORD. Permit me to pause for a moment right here and ask you this same question—though not a question about our fathers, or about your fathers, but about you personally and individually. What iniquity have you somehow found with the living God that you have gone far away from serving Him? What evil have you found within the one true God that you have turned your back away from Him and truly worshipping and serving Him? What offense have you found within the living and true God that you somehow no longer find it profitable to worship and serve Him? Ultimately, the underlying question must needs become how have you become offended with God, and what offense did you find with God that you turned your back on Him?
You cannot read the words found in the prophetic book of Jeremiah and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous reality that the LORD continually spoke unto them concerning their whoredoms, their harlotries, and concerning their spiritual adultery and fornication. What’s more, is the fact that you cannot escape the language of backsliding in this prophetic book, as Jeremiah would continually speak to the people of God concerning their backsliding—and not simply their backsliding in the singular tense, but backsliding in the plural sense. Within the second chapter of this prophetic book you will find the prophet Jeremiah not only indicting the people of God for their whoredoms, harlotries and backslidings, but also speaking directly unto them concerning their offense with the living God. When the prophet asked the people concerning the iniquity their fathers found with the living God, that which he was ultimately speaking to them about and asking them was about their offense with and before the living God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular reality, for it is something that is a common theme within and throughout the prophetic book of Jeremiah. Through Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah the eternal God asked the people of God what iniquity their fathers found with Him that they would turn their hearts and their backs away from serving Him—and not only turning their hearts and their backs from serving the LORD, but also to exchange the glory of the One true and living God for that which is no glory, and that which does not profit them. If we want to truly understand the language of idolatry and turning our hearts and our backs upon the LORD it is absolutely necessary that we not only consider the words which the prophet Isaiah spoke, which are recorded in the twenty-ninth chapter of that prophetic book, but also the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first and opening chapter of epistle which was written unto the Roman saints. It is with these words we encounter and catch a glimpse of just how pervasive and how destructive this idolatry and spiritual adultery and fornication is. Consider if you will the words which the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul spoke—each within their generation and unto those people who were present during those days:
“Stay yourselves, and wonder; Cry ye out, and cry: They are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the LORD said, Forasmuch as this people draw near m e with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart f ar from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their words are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? And who knoweth us? Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: For shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? OR shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding? Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest? And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 29:1-19).
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whispers, backbiters, haters of God, despitefully, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:18-32).
WHEN THEY KNEW GOD! THEY GLORIFIED HIM NOT AS GOD! NEITHER WERE THANKFUL! BECAME VAIN IN THEIR IMAGINATIONS! THEIR FOOLISH HEART WAS DARKENED! CHANGED THE GLORY OF THE UNCORRUPTIBLE GOD INTO AN IMAGE MADE LIKE UNTO CORRUPTIBLE MAN! CHANGED THE TRUTH OF GOD INTO A LIE! WORSHIPPED AND SERVED THE CREATURE MORE THAN THE CREATOR! EVEN THEIR WOMEN DID CHANGE THE NATURAL USE INTO THAT WHICH IS AGAINST NATURE! LEAVING THE NATURAL USE! THEY DID NOT LIKE TO RETAIN GOD IN THEIR KNOWLEDGE! HATERS OF GOD! The words which we read in the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Romans is actually quite telling when you consider the narrative that is found in the Old Testament prophetic of Jeremiah, for the words he penned were a stinging indictment toward and against men and women who might very well have found offense with God. As a direct result of this offense—perhaps even this discontentment and disillusionment with the LORD of hosts—men and women did what they do best and what they understand the most. In all reality, it is something man has done since the time of the children of Israel when they came out of the land of Egypt and came unto Horeb in the wilderess of Sinai. Upon reading the narrative found in the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find that when the people saw how Moses tarried too long atop and upon the mountain they came unto Aaron and entreated him that he form and fashion gods for them which they could see—gods which were tangible, gods which were visible, gods which were physical before them in the natural realm. Of course the narrative goes on to reveal how Aaron asked them to take off the gold earrings and jewelry they had, which he would use to form a golden calf—perhaps after an image of something they had seen while in the land of Egypt. This is important for us to recognize and consider as it perfectly and powerfully describes the words which the apostle Paul wrote when writing unto the saints which were at Rome. If you read the words found in the opening chapter of the epistle written unto the Romans you will find the language of changing and exchanging within the hearts of the people of the earth. The apostle Paul wrote of those who knew God, and yet they neither glorified Him as God, nor were thankful. Instead, they allowed themselves to become vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart became darkened within them. Professing themselves to be wise they became fools and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man. “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.”
Please do not miss the incredible and tremendous importance of what is written and found within this epistle written by the apostle Paul, for you will find him writing of changing the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like unto corruptible man and beasts. Not only this, but you will find the apostle Paul going to on write how they changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator. We dare not move too quickly beyond and past this reality, for to do so would be to grossly and largely misunderstand that which is found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah. What’s more, is that as you read the words found in the opening chapter of the epistle written unto the Romans you will find this language of changing and exchanging continuing as the apostle Paul would go on to write of women changing the natural use into that which is against nature, and men leaving that which was natural in order that they might pursue that which was now lawful, nor permitted by the one true and living God. The language found in the epistle written unto the Romans is language that is truly challenging when you truly read and seek to understand what is being said, for the apostle Paul used the same language which the prophet Jeremiah used when he wrote of the people changing their glory for that which does not profit. The apostle Paul would also speak of this same reality being manifested within the hearts and souls of men during his generation—quite honestly throughout history—for he too would speak of this language of changing the glory of the uncorruptible God into that which was likened unto what has been created within the earth. Moreover, the apostle Paul would go on to write how men would worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed for ever. This is truly alarming and convicting when you think about it, for the apostle Paul not only references trading the glory of the invisible God for that which is visible and that which has been created, but the apostle Paul also wrote about worshipping and serving the creator rather than the Creator, thus building upon the language which the prophet Jeremiah spoke within his generation.
It would be during the generation of the prophet Jeremiah the LORD would ask the people what iniquity their fathers found within Him that they would turn their backs and go away from Him, and it would be during the days of Isaiah the LORD would declare how the people drew near unto Him with their mouth, and with their lips did honor Him, but their hearts were removed far from Him. Moreover, the LORD would go on to emphatically declare that their fear toward them is taught by the precept of men rather than by the Law of the LORD. There is this inherent danger of drawing near unto the LORD with our mouths and honour int Him with our lips, and yet our hearts are far from and far removed from Him. This is perfectly and clearly seen in idolatry and our setting up of false gods which do not see, which do not hear, and which cannot speak. The prophet Jeremiah spoke unto the people of God during his generation and indicted them on finding iniquity, wrongdoing and evil in the LORD, and as a direct result of this they allowed their hearts and their backs to be turned away from Him. This is precisely what is meant with and through the language the apostle Paul used when writing unto the Roman saints and speaking about changing the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image like unto that which is corruptible. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to truly focus on it is when you consider the question the LORD asked His people concerning what iniquity they found in Him that they would allow themselves to turn away from Him. Essentially, that which the LORD was asking His people was one surrounding what fault and what wrong they had somehow found in Him that it would drive them away from Him, and would drive them to turn their backs on Him. We must not think and consider that this is solely in reference to the people during the days of Jeremiah, for I am absolutely and completely convinced there are countless men and women who have somehow found fault and wrongdoing in the LORD, and as a direct result of this offense in and offense with God they have chosen to turn their backs on Him. If you want to see what this offense in God and this offended with God truly looks like it is necessary to turn and direct your attention to the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle John. Moreover, you must think about and consider this language found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle John in light of the words the apostle Paul wrote unto the Thessalonians concerning a great falling away in the last days. It would also be absolutely necessary to consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of the first New Testament epistle written unto Timothy, his spiritual son in the faith:
“Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent. They said therefore unto Him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto Him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I say unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I am down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said a unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said He in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured at it, He said unto them, DOTH THIS OFFEND YOU? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. FOR JESUS KNEW FROM THE BEGINNING WHO THEY WERE THAT BELIEVED NOT, AND WHO SHOULD BETRAY HIM. And He said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto Him of my father. FROM THAT TIME MANY OF HIS DISCIPLES WENT BACK, AND WALKED NO MORE WITH HIM. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe are sure that thou art that Christ, the son of the living God. Jesus answered them, have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray Him, being one of the twelve” (John 6:28-71).
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, EXCEPT THERE COME A FALLING AWAY FIRST, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; whoso opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called god, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be t amen out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times SOME SHALL DEPART FROM THE FAITH, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and known the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:1-5).
FROM THAT TIME MANY OF HIS DISCIPLES WENT BACK, AND WALKED NO MORE WITH HIM! EXCEPT THERE COME A FALLING AWAY FIRST! SOME SHALL DEPART FROM THE FAITH! Each of these passages bring us face to face with what this walking away and turning our backs on the LORD actually looks like, as during the days of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ we find men and women not only becoming offended with the words which Jesus spoke unto them concerning His flesh and His blood, but also walking completely away from Him and walking no more with Him. It’s quite interesting to think about and consider the fact that the apostle John both records how these individuals went back—and not only went back, but also walked no more with Jesus. Stop for a moment and think about just how serious offense with the living God—even offense with Jesus Himself—can be within our hearts and lives, and how dangerous it be to drive us away from the true and living God. There were a number of disciples who walked with Jesus, who talked with Jesus, who followed Him, and how perhaps enjoyed some type of fellowship with Him, and yet they allowed themselves to grow offended with His words when He began speaking unto them concerning His body being bread, and His blood being drink. I am convinced that what we find in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative of John is a powerful picture—not only of what we found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah, but also of the great falling away that can and will happen during the last days. I am absolutely convinced that the words and language found in the prophetic book of Jeremiah is directly applicable to our days and generation today, as they not only speak of judgment being at the door, but they also speak of a great falling away and turning away from the one true and living God. I firmly believe that we are living during days and at a time when men and women are not only turning away, and not only falling away, but also walking away because of offense within their hearts with the living God. It might be true that they once walked with and followed the living God, and walked with the Lord Jesus the Christ, however, they reached the point where they sought to not only change, but also exchange the glory of the living God for that which does not profit, and that which is not a god at all.
There is not a doubt in my mind that the days in which we are living are not only days in which judgment is at the door, but also days in which men and women have turned their backs on and walked away from walking with and following Jesus. Such men and women have found and realized within their hearts and souls that the God whom they thought they wanted to worship and serve was not what they signed up for, and as a direct result they have walked away from walking with and serving that God, and formed and fashioned a god after their own imagination and after the likeness of something they could manage. If you study the history of the people of Judah and Jerusalem you will find that while they were indeed brought forth from the land of Egypt, and while were indeed brought through the wilderness by the living God, they desired to worship and serve gods that were created—and not even gods they created themselves, but gods they essentially borrowed from the nations round about them. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that the people of Israel and Judah didn’t only worship strange and foreign gods, but they didn’t even worship gods which they had formed and fashioned themselves. The only gods you could remotely say the people of God formed and fashioned themselves was the golden calf in the wilderness and the two golden calves Jeroboam formed in Dan and Beersheba when he became king over the northern kingdom of Israel. Every other god the children of Israel worshipped were borrowed and taken from the land of Mesopotamia, from the land of Egypt, and even from the nations round about them. It would be Joshua himself who would speak of the gods which were present on the other side of the flood, and even the gods which were present in the land of Egypt which the children of Israel had adopted as their own gods—that which would produce a downward spiral during the days of the judges when the people of God would worship and serve strange and foreign gods and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD. Consider if you will the words which are found in the final chapters of the Old Testament book of Joshua, as well as the words which are found in the opening chapters of the book of Judges, and even those which are found in the book of Second Kings:
“Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;; that ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them: but cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day. For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day. One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, He it is that fighteth for you, as He hath promised you. Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God. Else if ye do sin any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these n actions, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and thy to you: know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before Thou; but they shall e snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you. And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unot you, and not one thing hath failed therefore. Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil things, until He have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you. When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which He commanded you and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which He hath given unto you” (Joshua 23:8-16).
“And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac. And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt. I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out. And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red Sea. And when they cried unto the LORD, He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season. And I brought you into the land of Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan: and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them before you. Then Belak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: but I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand. And y e went over Jordan and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hittites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand. And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow. And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat. Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:1-15).
“And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were found about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so. And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto m y voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: that through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered He them into the hand of Joshua” (Judges 2:1-23).
“For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods, and walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out form before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: and there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the LORD carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger: for they served idols, whereof the LORD had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing. Ye the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statues, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God. And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them. And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of His sight: there was not left but the tribe of Judah only. Also Judah kept not the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made. And the LORD rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until He had cast them out of His sight. For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD, and made them sin a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; until the LORD removed Israel out of His sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day” (2 Kings 17:7-23).
It’s necessary that we pay attention to the words which are before us during the days of Joshua, during the days of the Judges, and even during the days of the prophets, for during the days of conquest, during the days of sin and cycles, and during the days of the prophets and seers we find it mentioned—not only concerning the gods on the other side of the flood, but also the gods of the land of Egypt, and the gods of the nations round about Israel. Even when you read the narrative of Solomon and how his wives turned his heart away from serving the LORD you will find that he never formed, nor did he ever fashion idols or images which he worshipped as God. What you will find concerning Solomon is that he would worship and go after the strange and foreign gods of the nations round about Israel—the nations of whom his wives, princesses and concubines were from. What is truly intriguing about the idolatry committed by Israel and Judah is that it essentially was manifested in two different ways—either adopting, borrowing, stealing and going after the foreign and strange gods of foreign nations round about them, or forming and fashioning idols and images themselves. In all reality, when we speak of idolatry it is absolutely necessary that we understand idolatry can and does in fact take place in the same way within our own hearts and lives. Idolatry either takes place in the shape and manner of us adopting the gods others worship—perhaps even gods which others worship as God—or it takes place in our forming and fashioning an idol or image after our own imagination. Oh you might argue that you would never actually and actively form and fashion a physical idol as we see in Scripture through the golden calves, and through other idols that were set up, but what you might very well find yourself doing is forming and fashioning a false god in your mind which you worship as God. As a direct result of perhaps not knowing the true and living God you will find yourself forming and fashioning a completely different image of the god whom you serve, and much like the children of Israel who worshipped God in the image they made, so you think and consider the fact that you too can somehow worship God in the image you have made. What makes the words which the apostle Paul wrote so absolutely captivating and convicting is the fact that within the epistle written unto the Roman Christians you will find him speaking of those who knew God and yet chose not to glorify Him as God, nor even be thankful. What’s more is that these same people who knew God would change the glory of the one true and living God and exchange it for something that was not of any profit. Still, and as if this weren’t enough, they would also worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.
What you find in the days of Moses and Aaron, as well as what you find during the days of Jeroboam son of Nebat is the people of Israel worshipping God in the images they had made, and even declaring concerning those false gods that they be the gods which brought them up out of the land of Egypt. Oh, there worship might have sounded authentic and genuine, and their language might have sounded sincere in that they were acknowledging how they had been brought up out of the land of Egypt. This is what is truly deadly and dangerous about our forming and fashioning a false image of God within our hearts, within our minds, and within our assemblies and congregations, for although our worship might indeed sound genuine and sincere, it is nothing more than false worship of a god we have formed, fashioned and created after and according to our own imagination. Please don’t miss this truly important truth, for when you read the prophetic book of Jeremiah you will not only find the people of God finding offense and fault with the LORD, but you will also find them exchanging their glory—the glory of the true and living God—with and for that which did not profit. What’s more, is they would continue coming into the courts of the sanctuary and house of the LORD and give the appearance of worshipping the true and living God, yet their hearts were far from Him. This was the great tragedy and trouble that was found in the seventh chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah, for in the seventh chapter you will find how the people of God would commit great evil and wickedness in the sight of the true and living God, and would then enter into His house thinking they could worship Him as though nothing had happened. I have to admit that I cannot escape this concept of changing and exchanging, updating and upgrading the glory of the living God for that which is not glory and that which has no worth or value at all. It’s truly amazing to think about and consider how much weight, how much worth, and how much value we can find and place in that which has no eternal value. It’s truly astonishing how we can completely and utterly give ourselves to that which is no god at all, and can worship that which we have formed and fashioned. What’s more, is I would dare say that one of the greatest reasons men and women enjoy idolatry is because it gives them the ability to be like God as they form, fashion, and create something. Whether it’s wealth, whether it’s possessions, whether it’s a name and fame, whether it’s an elaborate house, whether it’s a prestigious company, or whether it be something altogether different, men feel a great sense of pride in creating, in forming and fashioning something within and of their own imagination and their own mind.
I sit here today and I find myself thinking about and considering the certain satisfaction men and women experience within their hearts and souls when they not only form, fashion, and create something, but are actually able to find worth and value in that. What’s more, is that if men and women find something that is worthy of affection, worthy of desire, worthy of adoration, worthy of praise, and yes, even worthy of worship, idolatry is birthed within their heart and soul. This was the sin which Nebuchadnezzar had committed—not only with the image of gold which he had set up in the plain of Dura in the land of Shinar, but also while he was walking atop the roof of his palace in Babylon when he looked over the vastness of the empire and boasted of how he had created, formed and made everything that was before him. If you study the life of Nebuchadnezzar you will find that not only was he guilty of setting up an image and calling all men to bow down and worship, but you will also find him setting himself up as an object of worship based on the greatness of the Babylonian empire. Stop right there and think about the fact that idolatry can indeed take the shape of our setting up something else as an object of worship, or even setting ourselves up as an object of worship. Yes, I did speak of the possibility of us setting ourselves up as an object of worship, for as much as we can set up other things as objects, images and idols which we worship and serve, so also we can set ourselves up as objects of worship, adoration, affection, praise, and so much more. Nebuchadnezzar walked upon the roof of his palace and overlooked the vastness and greatness of the Babylonian Empire, and allowed his heart to be puffed up with pride and arrogance as he boasted of his greatness, his might, his strength, his power, and his glory. Nebuchadnezzar is a powerful example of not only setting up an object which men were to worship, bow down before and serve, but also of setting himself up as an object of worship. We don’t know exactly what the image which was set up in the plain of Dura actually was, and we can only speculate whether or not it was a replica of the image he saw in his original dream except fashioned out of pure gold, or whether it was an image of himself. Regardless of what the image was which was set up in the plain of Dura in the land of Shinar we find Nebuchadnezzar calling on all nations, tribes, tongues, languages and peoples to bow down and worship I t when they heard the sound of music and all manner of instrument.
What we find in the narrative of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is a powerful example of one who not only set up something else as an image and object of worship, but he even set himself up as an object of worship—even if it was he alone who worshipped that image. We cannot escape this particular reality, for when we think about idolatry we must recognize and understand that it can indeed and can in fact take the form of setting ourselves up as that object worthy of worship, or in our setting something else up as the object of worship and adoration. The words found earlier on in the prophetic book of Jeremiah are actually quite convicting when you take the time to consider them, for those words present us with the truth that the LORD actually observed and found greater faithfulness among the nations round about Israel to and with gods that were no gods at all than He did with Israel herself and the one true and living God. Israel was a nation who experienced the great wonders and judgments of the LORD in the land of Egypt, and was brought forth by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm from the oppression and bondage of the land of Egypt. Israel was brought through the waters of the Red Sea and watched as Pharaoh’s chariots, horses and horsemen were drowned in the sea. Israel drank from the spiritual rock in the wilderness and ate manna from heaven given them by the LORD. Israel witnessed and beheld the glory of the living God at Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai and saw the glory of the LORD atop the mountain and heard the LORD speaking unto Moses. Israel was given the Law of the LORD through Moses, as well as the pattern of the Tabernacle which they would use to worship the LORD. Israel alone had the true and living God among them in their midst, and worshipped the true and living God alone, and yet Israel chose to exchange and change the glory and majesty of that eternal God for that which has no glory and that which is not glory. Israel chose to essentially trade the glory of the eternal God for that which has no eternal value, no eternal worth, no eternal measure or merit at all. What’s more, is that I still find it incredibly unique that much of their idolatry wasn’t even them forming and fashioning their own idols and images, but rather worshipping the false gods of the nations round about them. What the children of Israel would do, however, was build altars, shrines and groves unto those gods in the midst of the land, and even in the Temple of the LORD.
BORROWING GODS AND BUILDING ALTARS! STEALING GODS AND SETTING UP SHRINES! You cannot read the narrative of the idolatry of the children of Israel and not encounter the stark reality that much of their idolatry was simply them adopting the strange and foreign gods of the nations round about them, bringing those gods in the midst of the land, and then building shrines and altars before and unto those gods. The people of God would exchange the one true and living God for those which weren’t gods, and would set up altars and shrines unto them in the midst of the land. The same land in which the Tabernacle and the Temple was set up was the same land in which the people would bring the strange and foreign gods of the nations and worship them as though they were their gods, and as though they were worthy of worship. What makes the words of the prophet Jeremiah so incredibly challenging and convicting is when you think about and consider the fact that the people of God placed stock and emphasis in having the Temple among them in their midst, and using it as a license to carry out their idolatry, immorality and iniquity. If and as you read the words found in the seventh chapter you will find them placing their trust and their confidence in the presence of the Temple of the LORD, and somehow thinking and believing the lie that having the Temple of the LORD among them in their midst would give them license and freedom to carry out their immorality and idolatry. It is an incredibly dangerous when we as the people of God use the Temple of the LORD among us as means and a license to sin—and to continue to sin—against the LORD. It’s almost the same underlying principle that is found in the epistle written unto the Roman saints, as they trusted in the grace of God and used it as a license to sin against the LORD. They would place their trust in the grace of God, and that the LORD would forgive them, and as a direct result of that they would continue on in their idolatry and immorality before the LORD. Oh how absolutely and incredibly dangerous it is to use the grace of God as means to continue with our iniquity, our immorality and idolatry, for by doing so we find ourselves in the same position the children of Israel did during the days of Jeremiah the prophet when they trusted in the Temple. Consider if you will the following words which are found in this chapter beginning to read with and from the first verse:
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The Temple of the LORD, The Temple of the LORD, The Temple of the LORD, are these. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed no innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD. But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the LORD, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. Do they provoke me to anger? Saith the LORD: Do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? Therefore thus saith the LORD God; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall e poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, and eat flesh. For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers. Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the LORD their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth” (Jeremiah 7:1-28).
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the severity of Judah’s iniquity and immorality—and not only examine and understand what they themselves were guilty of committing, but also understand and recognize that we ourselves are guilty of within our lives as well. There is a tremendous and inherent danger in seeking to change and exchange the glory of the living and eternal God for that which does not profit, and that which is not God at all. What’s more, is that I can’t help but get the strong sense that the questions which the LORD asked the people of Judah and Jerusalem through the prophet Jeremiah recorded in the eighth chapter are questions which must and should be asked within our own hearts and lives. Through the prophet Jeremiah the LORD asked the people: “Is not the LORD in Zion? Is not her King in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities?” Please don’t miss the tremendous truth and underlying point of what the LORD is asking His people, for they’re the same questions which are being asked of us within our generation, and being asked of all those who would allow themselves to be engaged in idolatrous worship—whether setting up other things as false gods to worship, or whether setting themselves up as that which should be worshipped. The LORD asked His people if the LORD wasn’t in Zion, and if her King wasn’t among her in her midst, and I am absolutely and completely convinced the same question is being asked of us in this generation—both of churches and houses of worship and individuals alike. The truth and underlying truth and reality is that we as the people of God need to take to heart the words which Moses the servant of the LORD spoke unto the children of Israel before they entered into the land of Canaan, for Moses declared unto them, saying, “Hear, O Israel, The LORD our God is one LORD; And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The truest and ultimate safeguard against idolatry within our hearts and lives is living lives that are completely and utterly saturated and consumed in and with a genuine and authentic love for the LORD, which completely and utterly transforms our hearts and our lives that there is nothing else that can satisfy us save the LORD God Almighty. Oh that we would allow ourselves to be completely and utterly captivated with and by the LORD in our lives, and that we would walk in a love for the LORD that completely and utterly transcends every area and every part of our lives and our beings. Let us this day make the conscious and deliberate decision that we are going to truly love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, and that we would love the LORD with our whole being and leave nothing untouched by the power and presence of the living God.